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Belarus must free political prisoners, reform: Clinton

02 july 2011, 17:12
0
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. ©AFP
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. ©AFP
Authoritarian Belarus must free its political prisoners and take the road to democracy, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday during a visit to neighbouring Lithuania, AFP reports.

"Together, we demand that Belarus release political prisoners and embark on the path of democratic reform," Clinton told reporters after meeting with Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaite.

"It seems very sad for the people of Belarus that they stand in such stark contrast to their neighbours, and it reminds us that building a full and free Europe is still an unfinished task," she said in Vilnius, which lies just 30 kilometres (20 miles) from the Belarussian border.

Clinton arrived in Vilnius Thursday for a two-day meeting of the Community of Democracies, a Lithuanian-chaired informal grouping of more than a hundred nations created in 2000 to bolster democratic norms worldwide.

On Thursday evening, she met with activists from Belarus.

Like Belarus, Lithuania won independence from the crumbling Soviet Union in 1991. But the two countries have since followed very different paths.

Lithuania is firmly anchored in the West, having joined the European Union and NATO in 2004.

Belarus is ruled by authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, in power since 1994.

His regime has launched a renewed crackdown on opponents in the wake of his December re-election which Western observers said was flawed.

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